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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Telltale Games' Game of Thrones E4: Sons of Winter.

My apologies for any gaping errors in this review - I'm mixing up words even more than usual lately. Also, my keyboard is giving me trouble.

Telltale Games' Game of Thrones
Episode 4: Sons of Winter.

But where is the next episode of Tales from the Borderlands? It's an odd thing - Tales started a month before Game of Thrones, with both of them ostensibly being on an every-other-month schedule, and yet we've come to the point where Game of Thrones has its fourth episode out and Tales from the Borderlands hasn't even released its third. 

Anyhow, in this episode, the fourth of six, Gared, having just killed one of his family's murderers, must flee the Wall to escape execution and find the mysterious North Grove. Meanwhile, at Ironrath, Rodrik is approached by the Glenmores with an offer to kill Gryff Whitehill. In King's Landing, Talia snoops around a party in an attempt to gather information that might help her change her family's fortunes. Over in Essos, Asher and Beskha are given a task in the siege of Meereen, which might be endangered by Beskha's unpleasant history with the city.

Incidentally, has anyone ever noticed that we've never been told why ironwood is so valuable? We know that it burns blue, and that's pretty much it, although implications are abound that it's very hard and sturdy.

There's a lot to take in here.

This, I thought, was the best episode so far, but it was also probably the one that made it clearest that we weren't going to get a resolution to most of these plots by the end of the series. It just doesn't seem possible: In true Game of Thrones fashion, every episode ramps up the tension and complicates the tangle of plots, leading us less towards a definite resolution and more towards a cliffhanger ending that'll lead on to Telltale Games' Game of Thrones Season 2, and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that.

The worst storyline in this episode is most definitely Gared's - it's truly amazing how the Wall can be so boring both in the television series and in these games, and going beyond the Wall absolutely did not help. A lot of this is that Gared is probably the least interesting playable character in the game, and he doesn't seem to really have any character flaws, unlike the other three playable characters. I found myself deeply, deeply bored during Gared's parts.

The best storyline is probably Talia's, despite it being easily the least meaty of the bunch. That's largely because the gameplay of her part is a lot more engaging: You get to meander around a delightful garden party, eavesdropping and talking to people and then using that information against others. It's Telltale, so you're being fairly firmly railroaded, but it does manage to feel somewhat like you're not, and that's at least a small bonus. It's nice also to see Talia starting to shape up into a bit of an arch-manipulator, and you can pick conversation choices that only enhance that. 

Just having a friendly meal.

As far as Rodrik and Asher's storylines go, both of them are fine. Good, even. For Rodrik, Telltale clearly wrote the storyline with the player having previously succeeded in convincing Elaena to marry Rodrik in mind, and then had to hastily adapt it for those players who didn't, but you get some nice pay-off in that you can maim or murder Gryff Whitehill, and a fairly dramatic moment involving Ramsay Bolton showing up in Ironrath. For Asher, you get Emilia Clarke putting in an excellent performance as Daenerys, and some good character development for Beskha, but for the most part, it feels like filler, and filler clumsily tangled up in the plot of the television show, at that. 

(All of the television tie ins remain absolutely and cringe-worthily clumsy, actually, with the characters transformed into caricatures of themselves. It's all very fanfiction, and while usually I would be okay with that, it is starting to grate more than a little.)

Weirdly, the graphics have kind of stockholmed me into liking them a little. I hold by what I said in the first episode - that they're really quite terrible, especially compared to Telltale's usual, more comic-booky design, but I've grown used to them by now, weirdly. The soundtrack is also excellent, and the voice acting remains strong, with the notable exception of Gared's voice actor, Daniel Kendrick, whose lines sound very much like they were phoned in by a confused GCSE student. Talia's voice-acting has taken a sharp turn for the better this episode, too, which is always nice.

N'aww, itshadragon.

Probably the biggest problem with this series of games, though, is that by now I'm used to Telltale's schtick, and I know that none of these choices will really have consequences - invariably, come the next episode, Telltale will find a way to railroad the players back onto a predetermined path, and that does kind of damage the feeling of being involved, somewhat.

Next episode, we seemingly get Daenerys' reneging on her deal with Asher; Rodrik has a confrontation with Ramsay and discovers who the traitor is; Talia is approached by Cersei; and Gared also does things probably. Or at least, that's how it seems from the trailer. I am looking forward to episode five, due to come out in late July,  but the key question in my mind right now is whether Tales from the Borderlands will manage to even have its third episode announced by then.

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